Saturday, December 8, 2007


I apologize to The Bike-sharing Blog fans as I've been away on a bike-sharing trip of the United States' West Coast where a lot of bike-sharing interest exists.

While in Seattle I learned about the University of Washington's bike-sharing pilot which is to include 40 electric bikes and four stations and is to be provided by Intrago Corporation. According to Intrago's press release, Joshua Kavanagh, the new Director of Transportation Services at the University of Washington is quoted to have said, "We're very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Intrago to bring this innovative project to our campus. This new form of on-demand personal mobility will add a significant enhancement to our award-winning U-Pass program [university magnetic stripe card]. We anticipate this added incentive to further reduce the number of cars coming to campus each day as well as reduce car and truck use within our campus."

Way to go, University of Washington! This is the first 3rd generation university bike-sharing program of which I'm aware in North America. The U.K. is the only country with a former university program elsewhere. The U.K. system was linear and ceased to operate once a bus line began operating service in the same corridor. U of W's program is to be up-and-running for the Fall '08 semester.

I'm not yet familiar with Intrago's technology and I believe it's recently out of research & development or nearing it. However, I do have a concern about electric bikes. On one hand I feel that if electric bikes get more people cycling, then it's worked. On the other hand, pedal cycles are the most efficient form of transportation and the carbon footprint consists of only manufacturing the bike and replacing parts as they wear out. Electric bikes are bulkier (80+ pounds) and produce pollution to power them. There's also the added pollution of moving around the heavier bikes from station to station. The University of Washington is not too hilly, especially when compared with the rest of Seattle. The jury will be out on this issue. Intrago offers its technology for pedal cycles, so maybe this would work better for the campus.

Now over to France. With Paris' transit strike, Velib' has become immensely more popular. According to an article in The International Herald Tribune the strike has pushed the number of daily Velib' trips from 90,000 before the strike to 175,000! (That's more trips per day than a lot of bus systems.) Folks have been waiting in lines at Velib' stations, sometimes up to an hour, to take out the next bike that comes in.

image credit: Intrago Corporation


Unknown said...


As much as I admire your work, I believe you are wrong about the issue of electric bikes, at least with regard to the University of Washington. In fact, the campus sits atop of a plateau and one of the main destinations is down a steep hill - the UVillage shopping center. It is too steep to ride a bike up for most people and so a bike sharing program in that environment would fail because all the bikes would eventually be ridden down the hill and then just left there. With electric bikes or scooters, people will ride them back up the hill. This is exactly the kind of challenge that last-mile mobility companies have to be prepared to solve to get people to use this radical new form of transportation system. My two cents.

Tony Polk

Anonymous said...

Electric bikes are a natural mix to bike sharing programs. As well as escooters and segways. Creating smart bike programs with charging staions for ebikes and scooters would add another revenue stream and increase there chances of sucsess.
Nice blog just came across it - I have read your work before - keep it up. The designer of the GEM car is involved with the Intrago team Dan Sturgis.

Anonymous said...

This is so cool! What a smart looking bicycle. And thanks for all the information.

AK-NWforager said...

Yep. I have to agree with Anthony. The UW area does have its share of hills. Its questionable if normal bike are more efficient today,and then only if they are ridden. How much carbon is used to feed a human to power the bike unassisted ?
An E-bike is incentive for someone who would never bike or can't for that matter. I know 1st hand that an e-bike is a crutch that can help getting a person into non-assisted great shape too .UW needs solar/wind charges for these bikes ,then it would be undebatable which is more efficient .